Barr: US needs a barrier system at the border

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked President Trump's nominee for attorney general Bill Barr if he felt that a border wall would help America's drug problems.

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 10:56 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 10:58 PM

Former Attorney General William Barr took questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for hours Tuesday as he sought to win confirmation to his old job amid President Donald Trump's ongoing onslaught against the Justice Department and the special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller.

Republicans on the committee largely promoted Barr's long resume and service to the country. Democrats sought to cover every possible eventuality in regard to the possibility of Trump seeking to use the attorney general to either intervene or unduly influence the special counsel probe. Barr stayed low-key throughout, his gravelly voice rarely rising above a conversational tone as he repeatedly offered his confidence in Mueller, the investigation and the need for it to run its natural course.

It was a good day for Barr and for a Trump administration hoping to get him confirmed as AG. It was a less good day for Trump himself, due to Barr's unwavering support for the special counsel. Here are the big takeaways from the hearing.

1. Barr was crystal clear in his support for Mueller

From the jump, Democrats wanted to get Barr on the record about the Mueller probe, whether he believed it was misguided, whether it had gone on too long and if he would ever consider ending the probe for any reason whatsoever. And time after time, Barr was unequivocal.

"I don't believe Mr. Mueller to be involved in a witch hunt," Barr said at one point. Relating what he told Trump about Mueller when the latter was appointed as special counsel, Barr recounted he told the President that the former FBI director is "is a straight shooter and should be treated as such." Asked by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons (D) whether he would reject an order from Trump to fire Mueller without what he considered good cause, Barr said he would do so -- and resign his post. (He also said it was "unimaginable" to him that Mueller would do something that would trigger his legal removal.) He made clear he would not allow any editing by the President of the final report put forward by the special counsel.

The cherry on top? Barr repeatedly referred to Mueller as "Bob" -- a sign of their long friendship. Barr said he told Trump in June 2017 that "I knew Bob Mueller and how the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this is all over, and so forth."

2. Barr doesn't really care what people think of how he would do the job

One of Barr's strongest moment was when, under questioning from Democrats, he insisted he would not be bullied by Trump or anyone else.

"One of the reasons I ultimately decided that I would accept this position if it was offered to me was because I feel that I'm in a position to be independent," Barr said. "If you view yourself as having a political future, don't take the job, because if you take this job, you have to be ready to make decisions and spill all your political capital and have no future, because you have to have that freedom of action. And I feel I'm in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences in the sense that I can truly be independent."

3. Barr was critical of James Comey -- but only to a point

Unlike Trump, who has bashed Comey, the former FBI director who he fired in the spring of 2017, as a liar and a leaker, Barr offered a much more nuanced take. "I think Jim Comey is, as I've said, an extremely gifted man who has served the country with distinction in many roles," Barr said. "But I thought that to the extent that he actually announced a decision, was wrong, and the other thing is, if you're not going to indict someone, then you don't stand up there and unload negative information about the person."

Rather than attack Comey personally, Barr noted that the former FBI director's largest failure was "disregarding the normal procedures and established practices" for how the Justice Department handles investigations of that sort.

4. Barr agreed with Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe ...

In Trump's mind, the whole Russia cloud that continues to linger over his White House is the direct result of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to recuse himself from oversight of the investigation in 2017. Sessions said he did so because, as a political advocate for Trump in the 2016 election, he wanted to ensure there was absolutely no appearance of conflict or bias.

Contra Trump, Barr told the Judiciary Committee that "I'm not sure of all the facts but I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself." Added Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), an on-again, off-again Trump ally: "I agree. I think he did the right thing to recuse himself."

5. ... but won't recuse himself from the probe.

Some liberal senators -- California Sen. Kamala Harris and Hawaii's Mazie Hirono -- suggested both before and during the hearing that, if confirmed as AG, Barr should recuse himself from the Russia probe due to a memo he wrote to the Justice Department last year in which he argued that Mueller should not be permitted to interview the President over his decision to fire Comey.

Barr rejected the recusal idea and insisted that his 18-page memo was "on a very particular statute and theory" and was not informed by any factual knowledge of the inner workings of the Mueller probe. He also rejected the idea that he had written the memo -- and made sure it got in front of the right people within the administration as a tryout of sorts for the attorney general job. "That's ludicrous," said Barr of that charge. "If I wanted the job and was going after the job, there are many more direct ways of me bringing myself to the President's attention than writing an 18-page legal memorandum."

6. Barr thinks Russia is a threat

While acknowledging he is no foreign policy expert, Barr broke with Trump on his willingness to put the blame for election interference in the 2016 election on Russia. He added: "I think the Russians are a potential rival of our country. Of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Barr said: "I think he wants to weaken the American alliances in Europe and he also wants to become more of a player in the Middle East."

7. Cory Booker stood out among 2020 aspirants

These moments -- the national press, donors and activists all watching -- can be opportunities or pitfalls for senators with their eye on running against Trump in 2020. Of that small group -- Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker -- Booker stood out to me. He pressed Barr on past comments the latter had made about incarceration, and the role that race plays in who gets imprisoned and for how long. Booker, who has in the past seemed to be trying to make a moment happen in just these same circumstances, was forceful and knowledgeable without being blindly partisan. He listened to Barr, pointed out when more recent studies countered Barr's conclusions about incarceration in the early 1990s and pushed for a broader conversation between the two of them in private.

It was what we should expect from public officials but not something we always get -- especially from people, like Booker, who are expected to run for president.

Lafayette
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 29°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 20°
Rensselaer
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 19°
Lafayette
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 29°
Danville
Partly Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 22°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 19°
Frankfort
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: 19°
Monticello
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 10°
Feels Like: 21°
Monticello
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 21°
Logansport
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 21°
One of the coldest nights of the winter (so far) is ahead tonight.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 605426

Reported Deaths: 9642
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion836221331
Lake45189680
Allen32646547
Hamilton29240315
St. Joseph27260380
Elkhart24354344
Vanderburgh19292248
Tippecanoe17905133
Johnson14974293
Porter14707168
Hendricks14295248
Madison10909220
Vigo10688179
Clark10581139
Monroe9338110
Delaware9089134
LaPorte9007162
Howard8177143
Kosciusko803182
Warrick668798
Hancock6639104
Bartholomew6443100
Floyd6377109
Wayne6106161
Grant5965115
Dubois554079
Boone549467
Morgan535595
Henry505564
Marshall502684
Cass482663
Dearborn476245
Noble471257
Jackson421947
Shelby413881
Lawrence389179
Clinton372043
Gibson369159
DeKalb345964
Harrison345644
Montgomery343354
Knox334339
Miami319844
Steuben313045
Whitley304526
Wabash301447
Adams299635
Ripley297545
Putnam294149
Huntington290659
Jasper288134
White272242
Daviess266774
Jefferson262538
Decatur246583
Fayette246348
Greene239262
Posey238128
Wells234050
LaGrange227662
Scott223439
Clay221832
Randolph212848
Jennings197736
Sullivan191133
Spencer190121
Washington183722
Fountain183127
Starke174843
Jay167022
Owen163637
Fulton163130
Orange157234
Carroll156415
Rush154418
Perry152727
Vermillion148634
Franklin147833
Tipton131832
Parke13038
Pike116226
Blackford110922
Pulaski96837
Newton90721
Brown87534
Benton86510
Crawford7929
Martin73013
Warren6777
Switzerland6575
Union6267
Ohio4867
Unassigned0375

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events